Weekly Parent Letter

June 17, 2021

School has been out for nearly four weeks now and my prayer is that you have fallen into a relaxing summer routine.  Things here at school never seem to slow down much. 

  • St. Edward Summer Care is in its third week and the children are having fun.
  • The preschool bathrooms have been torn apart and some new fixtures have already arrived.
  • Plans are being made for next fall.

Every year, as part of our accreditation, I am required to complete a year end summary and submit it to MNSAA.  The following is the executive summary that I submitted this year.  While much of it is old news, it does give a good overview of many of our accomplishments.

At a principal’s meeting in April, school leaders were asked to describe their biggest wins and frustrations for the 2020-21 school year without using the word COVID.  We all made gallant efforts to do so, but in reality, all of our wins and struggles were colored by its presence.  This executive summary too will be colored by the fact that we were operating in the midst of a global pandemic.

During most of my tenure here, planning for a school year begins in the winter and spring months of the year prior.  For this year, that planning was interrupted and ultimately halted by the governor’s 2020 distance learning decree.  As we neared the end of the 2019-20 school year I knew that continuing distance learning in the fall of 2020-21 was not an option that was in the best interest of our students or staff.  I began researching how to open our doors in the fall.  Fortunately, the Diocese of New Ulm and the Minnesota Catholic Conference were also thinking along the same lines.  After much planning and reorganization of the way we do things, we opened our doors to in person learning on Tuesday, August 25th, as originally planned. 

During those first days and weeks of school, we washed our hands, wore our masks and held our breath, waiting for the worst.  What we learned is that holding our breath just made us out of breath.  Eventually we looked around and saw that the children were learning and laughing and praying – in many cases differently than in years’ past, but not entirely.

When we stopped holding our breath, our mindset immediately changed to providing opportunities for the children that were equal (albeit different) to those of years’ past.  We spent time learning outside in our makeshift outdoor classroom and harvesting our school garden.  We celebrated Mass weekly.  We held our annual All Saint’s Day Costume Contest and put together a Christmas Concert that was recorded and shown to the parents via Zoom.  Catholic Schools Week activities were planned and implemented.  The Catholic Schools Week carnival was postponed and then held outdoors in May.  Our afterschool program was operational, even though we service children from both our school and the local public school.  We held our science fair, our annual Living Stations of the Cross, monthly Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and an outdoor Living Rosary.  The Student Council was especially active in promoting fun diversions for the students to include more dress up days.  At the end of the school year we made several school outings to include a trip to the YMCA, Camden State Park and a nearby movie theatre.

NWEA assessments were given in September, January and April.  For multiple reasons, we added mid-year assessments.  While these were helpful and served their intended purpose, the likelihood of us continuing with mid-year assessments into the 2020-21 is slim.  Overall, NWEA scores, along with teacher conferences show us that our students learned and gained in 2020-21, similarly to what those gains may have been had there been no global pandemic to contend with; although we will never know for sure. 

Given the constant media attention given to “learning loss”, more focus was put toward students who are struggling; more questions were asked as to why and teachers were given specific professional development assignments to complete that focus on helping all children learn.  As a school we attended pieces of the FIRE Conference in the spring which focuses on special needs children.  A very wise instructor once told me that all children have special needs, we just need to figure out what they are.  The FIRE Conference solidified this theory as much of what we learned could be applied immediately to all of our students.

During the 2018-19 school year we reviewed our religion curriculum.  It was decided that we would begin a path toward Catechesis of the Good Shepherd for our youngest learners.  During the 2019-20 school year we transported our kindergarten and 1st grade students to a nearby parish within our area faith community for time to work in their Catechesis of the Good Shephed Atrium.  While this was a wonderful opportunity for the children, I saw that it was not a long term solution.  During the 2019-20 school year we decided that we must begin to work toward opening our own atrium on our campus.  With the interruption of distance learning, this goal was put on the back burner.  However, in August of 2020, a decision was made by the neighboring parish to relinquish the space given to the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd Atria which left it without a home.  The decision was quickly made here, to make space for two Catechesis of the Good Shepherd Atria which would service Level I, Level II and Level III students (ages 3-12) to school children as well as those from the larger faith community.  So, beginning in the fall of 2020 we were able to offer Catechesis of the Good Shepherd religious instruction to our preschool, kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grade students.

This transition has not occurred without its difficulties.  We have learned much!  In August we will be sending three staff members to Catechesis of the Good Shepherd training and are finalizing plans to better educate parents regarding the methods utilized.

On June 1st we opened our Summer Care Program for its third season and currently have over 20 children enrolled.  This program provides care for area 5-12 year old children; but what we are learning is how great the need is for their moral care. 

For the first time in many years, I am able to report that we have increased our enrollment.  While the number fluctuated throughout the year, we ended with 59 children (PreK – 8).   Given multiple conversations that I have had, I am hopeful that we will be able to hold our numbers for the 2021-22 school year.  Marketing during this year focused largely on the internet in reaching out to potential families.

In the end, we can proudly say that we held 178 1/2 days of in person learning with zero documented cases of COVID in the building; not because we did everything right, but because we had parents who were very diligent about following the health guidelines set forth.

Overall we have learned that change is possible, difficult and necessary.

 

Now, on a very different note, I need to report that I have recently placed ads to replace two of our staff members.

  • Mrs. Rybinski was struggling with her health during the last weeks of school and does not feel that she will have the strength to return in the fall.  We will be holding interviews for this position very soon.
  • Miss Evers informed me very recently that she has accepted a new position and also will not be returning in the fall.

Please pray for both of these staff members as the move forward in very different ways and pray that new staff will come to fill their shoes in new and creative ways.

May God Bless,

 

Mrs. Garvey